Reconnecting Farms

In Shropshire, a new service is working with farmers to help create a sustainable future for agriculture

Farm Carbon is a new, free advice service for farmers in Shropshire that helps them manage their carbon footprint.

Currently, agriculture is believed to be responsible for 25% of carbon, 65% of methane and 90% of nitrous oxide emissions across the world. However, making use of the soil’s natural fertility and of nature’s capacity for growth and regeneration to promote human survival has always been sustainable. Farmers have been obliged to change according to the demands of political systems and financial pressures. The farmer now straddles the boundary between business growth, which is linear, and natural growth that is cyclical.

Run by Light Foot Enterprises and supported by the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty LEADER Programme, the Farm Carbon scheme is helping to restore the balance.

Farm energy officer, Dave Luckhurst explains how it works: “While we can’t turn back the clock, the aim is to set farmers on track to a lower-carbon future. First we calculate carbon and other greenhouse gas flows on the farm and this provides a baseline. We can then recommend energy efficiency, options for renewables, land management changes and other measures to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

“As well as identifying where sensible cuts can be made, Farm Carbon can help make farms more resistant to changes in oil prices and the effect of peak oil, and possibly give them an economic edge in the market place,” Dave adds. The Farm Carbon team believes that, with energy and emissions audits likely to become increasingly common, those farmers who plan ahead will have an advantage.

Dave aims to survey 160 farms in the next two years using the CALM (Carbon Accounting for Land Managers) model. This is a calculator that measures emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, from energy and fuel use, livestock, cultivation and land-use change, the application of nitrogen fertilisers and lime. These are balanced against carbon that becomes stored in soil and trees.

“We do all the data inputting on behalf of the farmers,” Dave says. “We then produce a report, which goes beyond CALM by providing practical information, details of local suppliers and contacts for renewable energy. Farm Carbon can also assist by finding funding for emission reduction measures and low-cost or no-cost loans.”

In addition, there are opportunities for the farmers to visit demonstration farms. “Open days are very successful,” Dave says. “Farmers can exchange ideas, talk to industry experts and see how appropriate technologies and energy solutions work in real life.”

Paul Cashmore of Wilderhope Farm, Much Wenlock, is a Farm Carbon client, who manages 270 acres of livestock and arable land at Wilderhope on behalf of the National Trust. “The service will benefit us in a number of ways,” Paul says. “Not only can we examine input costs and the best way forward, we can also respond to consumer demand for lower carbon alternatives and to new policies on emissions. Farms have always been the backbone of the rural economy,” Paul adds. “Food production uses a lot of energy and we need to know how to manage it best for the future.”

Contact: Light Foot Enterprises,
The Old Primary School, Church Street,
Bishops Castle, Shropshire, SY9 5AE
Telephone: +44 (0)1588 630683
Website: www.farm-carbon.org

Dave Luckhurst, Farm Carbon energy officer (right) with Paul Cashmore of Wilderhope Farm in Much Wenlock, and Paul’s son Ted on an iron horse by the farm entrance. Photo: copyright Jane Bywater

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